How to Mount Backsplash – A Comprehensive Guide

Having a beautiful, easy to clean backsplash in your kitchen can completely transform the look and feel of the space. But properly installing a backsplash takes careful planning and execution. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about how to mount backsplash tiles to get a professionally finished look.

Selecting Your Backsplash Tiles

The first step in any backsplash project is picking out your tiles. There are a few considerations here:


The most common backsplash tile materials are:

  • Ceramic – A classic option, ceramic tiles are affordable, easy to clean, and come in a huge range of styles and colors. They’re not very heat or water resistant.
  • Porcelain – More durable and water-resistant than ceramic, porcelain tiles are great for kitchens. They’re easy to clean but can be prone to chipping.
  • Glass – With endless color and finish options, glass tiles make a gorgeous, shiny backsplash. But they require careful handling and aren’t very heat tolerant.
  • Metal – Extremely durable and heat-resistant, metal backsplash tiles come in stainless steel, copper, bronze and more. They can be expensive and tricky to cut.
  • Stone – Natural stone tiles like marble, granite, and slate have organic beauty but require sealing. They can be heavy and costly as well.


Standard backsplash tiles range from 1×1 inch mosaics to 4×4 inch or 6×6 inch pieces. Larger tiles mean fewer grout lines for easier cleaning. Smaller tiles allow more design flexibility.


Consider the overall style you want – sleek and modern, old-world and ornate, natural stone, or handpainted art tile. Also choose a tile that coordinates well with your counters, cabinets, and flooring.

Gloss level

Matte or honed tiles help hide splatters and water spots while glossy or polished tiles reflect more light. The glossier the tile, the more apparent grout lines and imperfections will be.

Once you select the perfect tiles for your kitchen, order 15-20% extra to allow for cuts, waste, and breakage. And be sure to get matching grout. With your tiles in hand, it’s time to start prepping for installation.

Preparing Your Kitchen for Backsplash Installation

Proper prep work is crucial for a long-lasting backsplash installation. Here are the key steps:

Clean the surface thoroughly

Remove any old backsplash, then scrub the wall area with an all-purpose cleaner or TSP substitute to get rid of grease, dirt and soap scum. Rinse and let dry completely.

Inspect for damage

Check for any holes, cracks, uneven areas, or improper drywall finishing that could interfere with proper tile adhesion. Repair and flatten as needed with drywall joint compound.

Mark your focal point

Decide the focal area and mark a level line where you want the middle of your backsplash to go. Measure up from the counter.

Map your tile layout

Dry lay tiles across the backsplash area to map out placement. Account for focal points, outlets, faucets and other features. Adjust to get the right fit and desired pattern.

Remove any outlets or accessories

Taking out outlets and appliances like stoves allows you to tile behind and around them cleanly. Make sure power and gas are turned off first.

With the prep work complete, you’re ready to start tiling your backsplash!

How to Install Backsplash Tiles

Follow these step-by-step instructions for a foolproof backsplash tiling process:

Step 1: Apply adhesive mortar

Use a notched trowel to spread a thin, even layer of adhesive mortar on the first section of the prepped backsplash area. Cover only enough area that can be tiled within 15-20 minutes.

Step 2: Install your backsplash tiles

Following your tile map, press tiles firmly into the mortar, using spacers for consistent grout lines. Work in small sections and check alignment often.

Step 3: Let tiles set

Allow tiles to set for 24 hours without disturbing them. Use painters tape to hold any tiles that shift. Don’t grout or wipe the tiles yet.

Step 4: Grout the tiles

Mix grout per package directions and apply liberally over the tiles, smoothing into joints with a grout float or squeegee. Let it begin to set slightly.

Step 5: Clean grout haze

Wipe diagonal damp sponges across the tiles to remove excess grout. Rinse sponges frequently to clean grout residue. Allow grout to cure fully.

Step 6: Seal grout

Once cured, apply grout sealer and wipe off excess. This protects grout from stains and moisture damage. Apply sealer annually.

Step 7: Finish edges

For a clean finish, caulk along the countertop-backsplash border. Use silicone caulk or adhesive matching the grout color.

Follow all the tile manufacturer’s instructions for prep, installation, cure times, and grouting for best results. Take care not to rush and allow all materials sufficient drying times. With some patience and proper technique, you can achieve a stunning, professionally mounted backsplash in your kitchen.

Backsplash Mounting Tips and Tricks

Here are some helpful tips to make your how to mount backsplash project go smoothly:

  • Always use a level to ensure your tiles align properly, both vertically and horizontally.
  • When cutting tiles, use a wet saw for clean, precise cuts. A tile nipper is great for small nips and irregular cuts.
  • To accommodate outlets, cut tiles with a center hole then feed cords through from the back.
  • For cutting around pipes, trace the outline and nibble away with tile nippers. Use caulk around edges.
  • Wipe away mortar and grout from tile faces before it dries using a damp sponge for easier cleanup.
  • To avoid uneven tile lines, use plastic tile spacers between tiles for consistent spacing.
  • For extra adhesion, spread mortar on the tile backs as well as the wall and “double butter” each tile.
  • Check for lippage- uneven tile edges. Grind or flatten sticking up tiles before grouting so joints aren’t disrupted.
  • Allow mortar, tiles, and grout sufficient drying time as directed before moving between steps. Rushing can ruin work.
  • Tape off adjacent areas, like countertops, to keep them free of mortar and grout mess during the installation process.

With the right materials, tools, and techniques, you can install an eye-catching backsplash on your own and transform your kitchen’s style. Follow the steps closely and don’t be afraid to ask experts for input along the way. Taking a methodical approach helps avoid costly mistakes.

FAQs About Mounting a Backsplash

Still have some questions about how to mount backsplash tile in your kitchen? Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:

What tools do I need to install a backsplash?

You’ll need basic equipment like a tape measure, level, pencil, tile cutter, mixing buckets, notched trowel, grout float, sponges, towels, painters tape, and safety gear like gloves and eye protection. Specialty tools like a wet saw and tile nippers make the job easier.

What’s the best way to cut backsplash tiles?

A wet saw is ideal for cleanly cutting ceramic, porcelain or glass backsplash tiles. For irregular cuts around outlets or pipes, use a manual tile nipper. Have a bucket of water nearby while cutting to keep dust controlled and prevent tile chipping.

How do I create a pattern with different tile shapes?

Sketch your pattern first, mimicking the staggered bricklay look. Cut a cardboard template as a guide for unusual layouts. Mix shapes creatively but keep the overall look balanced. Plan tile cuts needed to maintain the pattern around edges and openings.

Should I use cement board, plywood or drywall for the backsplash substrate?

Cement backer board is the best substrate for kitchen backsplashes. It’s waterproof and prevents warping or mold growth. Plywood and drywall can work but may be prone to moisture damage over time. Be sure to use moisture-resistant, exterior grade plywood.

What type of mortar or adhesive should I use?

Use white polymer-modified mortar suitable for wet areas and flooring/wall applications. Premixed varieties with latex or acrylic polymers provide superior adhesion and resistance to stresses from heat and moisture. Avoid multi-purpose or standard premixed joint compound which can fail over time.

How soon can I grout after installing the tiles?

It’s crucial to allow tile mortar to cure for at least 24 hours before grouting or the tiles may shift, crack, or become unbonded. Remove spacers just before grouting. Check manufacturer instructions as mortar cure times vary. Rushing this step can ruin the whole project.

Should I seal my backsplash after installation?

Yes, applying grout sealer is highly recommended to protect porous grout from stains, moisture penetration, and bacteria growth. Re-apply annually. Use an impregnating sealer that won’t alter the grout color. Sealers with antimicrobials provide extra protection.

What’s the best way to finish the top edge of the backsplash?

Run a bead of color-matched silicone caulk along the top edge and between the backsplash and countertop. Tool the caulk to seal the seam. For a metal backsplash, you can install metal J-trim or U-channel edge trim for a seamless look.

Following the techniques and tips in this guide will help you achieve backsplash success. Mounting tile requires careful prep and patience but the results are well worth it!


Installing a kitchen backsplash not only prevents water and grease damage behind sinks and stoves but also adds visual appeal to your cooking space. With some planning, the right materials, and proper technique, you can mount tile or metal backsplashes with stunning results. Pay close attention to preparing the surface, establishing level rows, achieving full mortar coverage, allowing proper cure time between steps, and finishing with quality grout and sealers. Follow the detailed steps and tips outlined here combined with advice from tile product manufacturers. With time, care, and a methodical approach, you can gain a beautiful new backsplash that makes your kitchen complete.